Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s executive action today automatically restored voting rights to an estimated 100,000 persons with non-violent felony convictions who have completed their sentences.
Kentucky is one of only four states, along with Iowa, Florida, and Virginia, which disenfranchise all persons with felony convictions even after completion of sentence. Voting rights in these states can only be restored through action of a governor or pardons board. An estimated 243,000 Kentuckians with felony convictions have lost their right to vote, including 180,000 who have completed their sentence.
The New York Times reports:
Despite the policy changes in many states, almost six million Americans are prohibited from voting because of felony offenses, according to The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group. The racial disparity is acute: Nationwide, the organization estimates, one in 13 black men cannot vote, a far higher rate than for other groups.
In Kentucky, about 140,000 people will immediately become eligible to register for voting, and an additional 30,000 who are in prison or on probation for nonviolent offenses will gain the right over the coming years, according to estimates by the Brennan Center.
Mr. Beshear’s order excludes those with new pending charges and those convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes, bribery or treason. But those who do not automatically qualify to vote, Mr. Beshear said, could still apply for a special pardon under the existing system.
“Congratulations to the many tens of thousands of people who will soon become engaged members of society again,” he added.
Read more in the New York Times.